Jolley Prize 2011 (Winner): 'Before He Left the Family' by Carrie Tiffany

Before he left the family, my father worked as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company. He travelled from chemist to chemist with samples of pills and lotions and pastes in the back of his Valiant station wagon. The best sales representatives visited modern chemists in the city and suburbs. My father had to drive long distances to country chemists who had stocked the same product lines for years and weren’t interested in anything new. As he drank more and more, my father called on fewer and fewer chemists, but the cardboard boxes of samples kept arriving. They no longer fitted in the back of the car, so my father stored them in the corrugated iron shed next to the house. Summer in Perth is very hot. For months and months the bitumen boiled on the roads and we had to use the ends of our T-shirts to open the iron lid of the mailbox, or risk getting burnt. The pharmaceutical samples expanded in the heat of the shed. The lotions and pastes burst their tubes and tubs and seeped through the cardboard boxes. It smelt good in the shed – sweet and clean and surgical. My brother and I went in there often and sat among the sodden boxes as we read our father’s Playboy magazines.

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Carrie Tiffany

Carrie Tiffany

Carrie Tiffany was born in West Yorkshire and grew up in Western Australia. She spent her early twenties working as a park ranger in the Northern Territory and now lives in Melbourne where she works as an agricultural journalist. Her first novel, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Victorian Premier’s Fiction Prize, the Orange Prize for Fiction, and the Guardian First Book Award. Her new novel, Mateship with Birds, will be published by Picador in February 2012.

Published in October 2011 no. 335